You may have heard about companion planting; where you place two plants close together and that proximity is beneficial. You can also choose plants to either attract or deter wildlife.
A few years ago, I bought my mom a Red Horsechestnut tree (Aesculus x carnea) for Mother’s Day. I am so fond of these trees I bought one for myself, as well.
According to the University of Illinois Extension, the Red Horsechestnut is a cross between a common horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). They have clusters of deep-throated reddish-pink flowers borne on a long raceme. These trees are beautiful and hummingbirds flock to them when the flowers bloom in May.
May is, of course, the perfect time to put out hummingbird feeders.
Feeders: I’ve always been in the practice (or at least tried!) to get feeder up by the beginning of May to catch the early birds… so to speak. Some male hummers venture back ahead of the females to get an early start on house hunting. You can also catch those who migrate further north and start out earlier.
You may want to consider putting up a second or even third feeder on different sides of the house. If feeders are too close together, the more aggressive bird can still hover around and dominate more than one feeder. Putting them on opposite sides makes this almost impossible and the other birds will have a chance to sip.
While the hummers are coming to your feeders, this is the perfect time to really admire their colors, feathers, and size. In Kansas City region, we have the ruby-throated hummingbird; it is estimated their wings beat 60-80 times per second in normal flight, and up to 200 beats in courtship dives! It is amazing to see how hummingbirds can fly so fast, dipping, lunging, and racing; all the while making those twittering sounds.
Diet: For the longest time I thought that nectar was the only thing that hummingbirds ate. Actually, nectar is more like an energy drink. When you flit around beating your wings 80 times a second, you need some energy! Their diet consists of small ants, spiders, gnats, and other small insects.
Nesting: These little jewels lay two to three eggs (the size of a small jelly bean) in a nest about the size of half a walnut shell. When I was younger, I would ponder how the mama hummer would feed her babies – wouldn’t she be sticking them in the eye all the time with that long beak? Wouldn’t siblings in the nest be constantly ‘jabbing’ each other! Actually, when the chicks hatch their beaks are very short and grow, as they grow. It all works out!
If you haven’t done it yet, I encourage you to put out a feeder to enjoy the exquisiteness of these tiny birds. Best of all, plant a Red Horsechestnut nearby; enjoy the shade and beauty of the tree…and let the aeronautics begin!
Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net